Film review: ‘JULIET, NAKED’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Based on the Nick Hornby novel, the low-key but quirkily charming Juliet, Naked is, like many Nick Hornby stories, a gentle but insightful examination of romance and middle-aged male music obsession.

Rose Byrne stars as Annie, a woman living in an English seaside town with her Media Studies lecturer boyfriend Duncan (Chris O’Dowd). Their relationship has been largely built around Duncan’s obsession with a mysterious 90’s alternative rocker, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) who vanished into obscurity 25 years ago. Tired of hearing about Duncan’s adoration for Tucker, Annie leave him but the enigmatic Mr Crowe unexpectedly begins to play a role in Annie’s life and her relationship with Duncan. Much of the story relies on a surprising turn of events and to reveal much more would be a spoiler.

Juliet, Naked – the title coming from a demo version of an iconic Tucker Crowe album – isn’t exceptionally dramatic or comical but is engaging throughout. This is largely because if it’s well-chosen cast. At the film’s centre, Rose Byrne is typically endearing as Annie a woman approaching 40 who’s beginning to regret the chances she didn’t take in life including not having children. Hawke plays the cynical burnt-out celebrity with remarkable ease making him a troubled and selfish but not repulsive character.   Chris O’Dowd does his usual quirky, perplexed doofus routine but his crazed fidelity to his musical hero is occasionally funny. Some of the characters don’t work particularly well though, including Annie’s lesbian sister Ros (Lily Brazier) whose voracious sexual appetite becomes a fairly lame running gag.

The film is in many ways about wistful reminiscence of what was a pretty amazing time in music and popular culture in the 1990’s but by the same token, it’s about Gen X-ers being forced to confront the present.

Tucker Crowe is a sort of amalgam of Jeff Buckley, Ryan Adams and Paul Westerberg although he’s not as interesting or talented as any of them. Songs have been created for the movie but their mostly generic alt-folk ballads that are largely relegated to the background. Fortunately, the film’s soundtrack also features tracks from legitimate artists like Wilco and The Pretenders.

Juliet, Naked is a middling film but still a likeable romance and clever look at pop cultural fixation.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Romance/ Comedy/ Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Jesse Peretz.

Release date: 6th Aug 2018.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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